making our stations accessible for everyone

August 29th, 2014

making our stations accessible for everyone

The vivaNext commitment is to ensure everyone feels equally welcome on vivastation platforms and is able to board the Viva vehicles, whether they have mobility or other physical limitations, or are pushing a baby stroller, or for any other reasons feel uncomfortable accessing transit service. Over this holiday long weekend, we hope you get out and about using transit and take advantage of the system.

In addition to meeting all the accessibility requirements set out in Provincial and local regulatory frameworks, we’ve gone to great lengths to design the new platforms so all users have a comfortable and pleasant customer experience – and we obtained advice and input from the CNIB and York Region’s Accessibility Committee during the design process.

Here’s what we’ve built into the new stations to ensure all users feel safe and comfortable:

    • The pedestrian ramps to the platform have a shallow incline and handrails on either side, and there are no changes of grade or tripping hazards anywhere on the platform.   For people with impaired vision, the platform edge is clearly indicated through the use of domed tactile tiles in a contrasting colour. At the primary bus stop location there are directional tiles which provide directional grooves going toward the bus, which will be helpful for people using canes for guidance.
    • People using wheelchairs will have no difficulties getting in and out of the heated enclosures, which provide wheelchair-turning radius inside, and have doors at either end to simplify access. And the enclosures have barrier-free doors which have been designed to meet the highest accessibility standards including their button placement and operations such as door opening speed and how the door responds if it contacts an object. Even in construction zones, we try to maintain one accessible sidewalk at all times.
    • We’ve included benches inside the enclosure and outside, complete with grab bars for people who appreciate a little help getting up and down. And for anyone who dreads the chilly experience of sitting on a metal bench in a Canadian winter, we’ve planned for that too. The benches are constructed from durable Brazilian Ipe wood that will make sitting a little warmer in the cold weather; which is right around the corner!
    • The electronic ITS elements are all designed to ensure using the equipment is equally successful for all our customers. All the fare equipment is designed to be functional for people at wheelchair height or with other physical limitations, with angled screens, clear, bright graphics and large push-buttons. The VMS will provide clearly visible information about buses, routes and the time. We extensively researched and analyzed our PA system to make sure it’s clearly audible, and provides full coverage along the platform and in the enclosures. The notice holders for system updates are posted at the right height so they’re easily read whether you’re walking or in a wheelchair. And we’ve installed large map cases at each platform, illuminated to make it easy for everyone to navigate their route.

    Overall, our objective has been to provide a comfortable, safe and welcoming experience for all our transit riders with no barriers or restrictions. With back to school on everyone’s minds, safety and accessibility make a world of difference. Enjoy your holiday weekend!

     

    making your trip more comfortable across the YRT\Viva system

    August 27th, 2014

    making your trip more comfortable across the YRT\Viva system

    Many transit riders across York Region are YRT riders as well as Viva riders, and even though we’re building rapidways for Viva, YRT comfort is just as important.

    YRT is currently carrying out upgrades to all their curbside stops across the YRT system to add new amenities and freshen up existing ones. If you’ve been to the YRT stop at 16th Avenue and Warden you’ll already have seen the prototype that’s going to be installed everywhere.

    Each YRT stop will get a modern new shelter, which will provide superior protection from the elements. And for more comfort, each station will have new benches and garbage containers. More and more people are choosing to commute by bike but if biking part-way and then jumping on YRT\Viva suits you better, YRT is installing bike racks at each stop so you can leave your bike with confidence until your return.

    YRT is going to be working their way through the entire system across the Region to upgrade all the YRT stops, with the Highway 7 rapidway sections being the first to change over to the new curb-side YRT amenities this summer. With the rapidways on the way and YRT shelters being refreshed, York Region will have a refurbished look and feel that highlights its commitment to serving residents.

    These upgrades will bring a new level of comfort to YRT riders, and show the commitment YRT\Viva has to providing all its riders with a great customer experience, no matter what route they’re taking. We encourage you to come visit the area!

    Remember, where rapidways are in service, you now board Viva from the centre median, but continue to get on YRT at the curb-side shelters.

     

     

    using colour and shape to create welcoming pedestrian spaces

    August 22nd, 2014

    using colour and shape to create welcoming pedestrian spaces

    If you’ve walked along the new rapidway on Highway 7, you’ll have seen the vivaNext pavers we’ve installed on the boulevards. We know from the feedback we’ve received that people love the new look.

    Most sidewalks in York Region, like pretty much everywhere else, are made of concrete, and the most important consideration is functionality: they need to be safe, accessible, durable and easy to maintain. But beyond those goals, we also want our new boulevards – which are wider than the Region’s regular sidewalks – to reinforce the “complete street” concept – the guiding philosophy for our vivaNext streetscape design. With all the development coming to the Region’s centres and corridors, in the future there will be more pedestrians, whether they live, work, or commute along our rapidway routes. So we’ve made sure that our boulevard design is going to be visually appealing as well as functional.

    The boulevard is made up of the pedestrian zone and the furnishing zone. The pedestrian zone is typically a 2m-wide sidewalk which is fully paved with light-toned coloured pavers near intersections, and paved with concrete in the mid-block areas. The sidewalk is a continuous system even across driveways to alert motorists that pedestrians have priority.

    The furnishing zone is located next to the pedestrian zone. The furnishing zone is an area where pedestrian amenities and planters are located. It is paved in light coloured unit pavers which reinforce the identity of the vivaNext system.

    We’re using a combination of coloured pavers which not only look great but also add to wayfinding for pedestrians. The main field pavers are a light-coloured cool gray with contrasting coloured accent bands, which will increase in frequency as pedestrians approach the main intersections. The east-west accent bands are a red; the north-south accent bands are a dark charcoal gray.

    Immediately adjacent to the roadway and running along beside the pedestrian zone is a 610mm-wide “transition zone,” which provides an important comfort buffer from bicycle and vehicular traffic. In the winter months, it also provides an area for snow storage and protects the plantings nearby from salt spray. This zone will be paved in special “eco-pavers,” which allow water to seep through to the storm sewer system.

    A charcoal gray coloured textured warning strip will alert visually impaired pedestrians that they are approaching an intersection or driveway. At midblock where the pedestrian zone is paved in concrete, the warning strip will be grooved concrete. Both approaches will provide a tactile clue for visually impaired pedestrians of potential conflicts.

    We’ve given special attention to the boulevards near intersections to ensure they reinforce pedestrian priority and add to placemaking. These areas have been designed to function as urban plazas with unit paving and accent pavers. Soft landscaping will define the corners of the intersections and function as gateways to the adjacent areas.

     

    getting to where you want to go

    August 20th, 2014

    The continuation of dedicated rapidway along Highway 7 East – from Bayview to Town Centre Boulevard – has resulted in some important changes to the way drivers get to their destinations, and how the traffic signals work.  Some of these changes have already become familiar to drivers on the west leg of the rapidway and during the construction phase of the east end, but it’s worth going over them again -

      1.Watch for your signal. 

      There are several different signal phases now operating along Highway 7, and drivers need to be extra alert to pay attention.  The left turn arrow, transit arrow and through traffic signals all work together to keep traffic moving safely.  Pay careful attention to the signal for your lane and the movement you want to make. Watch for pedestrians in the middle if you are making left hand turns or U-turns.

      2. Left turns only during the left turn arrow.

      With the rapidway down the middle of the roadway, drivers cannot make left turns mid-block.  Left turns are only allowed from the left turn lane at intersections, on a dedicated left-turn green arrow.  White lines clearly show the left lane turn.  No left turns are allowed on the through green light phase, or the transit green arrow.  Special detectors in the pavement will help the light know how many cars are waiting to turn left, but depending on the length of the queue you may need to wait more than one cycle to make your turn.  If there are no cars detected at a specific time, there will not be a left-turn arrow in that cycle.

      3. U-turns are allowed during the left turn arrow.

      If you want to get to a destination on the other side of the road, you can make a u-turn at the intersection when the left turn arrow is lit.  It is important to make sure you turn into the main traffic lanes going in the other direction rather than into the rapidway.  To make it obvious, rapidways are tinted red and have special bus-only markings on them.  U-turns, like left-turns, cannot be made on a through green light, or when the transit arrow is green.

      4. Transit green arrows are for buses only.

      The vehicles using the rapidway have their own signal, which is located directly in front of the rapidway.  This signal is only for buses, and depending on the circumstances, it may or may not coincide with the through green light for traffic.   The transit signal has a special hood over it so it can only be seen by transit drivers.  But whether or not a transit vehicle begins to move through an intersection, other drivers must wait for their own green light before proceeding.

      5. Be careful making right turns, watch for signs.

      There some changes to right turns on Highway 7 from side-streets.  At some intersections, right turns are no longer allowed; drivers need to watch carefully for signage on the traffic lights.  Drivers turning right need to be especially alert watching for bikes using the new bike lanes and bike boxes, and when making right turns past YRT buses stopped at curb-side stops.

    Highway 7 is a busy street and safety for everyone using it is a top priority.  All these changes work together to get everyone where they want to go safely and in good time.   Stay tuned for the new section opening this August!

    safety first!

    August 18th, 2014

    Taking steps to ensure our passengers feel secure and safe using the new Viva stations is a top priority for YRT/Viva.  Every detail of our new passenger stations on the Highway 7 rapidway has been designed with a view to make riders feel comfortable, well protected from the elements and adjacent traffic, as well as able to access help in an emergency.

    With our median platforms located in the middle of a busy roadway, one of our top priorities has been to make the stations feel like a safe haven.  Stations will provide a secure waiting place for passengers with a concrete barrier wall running all along the traffic side, and a glass guardrail beyond the canopy.

    To access the new stations in the median, pedestrians must use the crosswalks and cross with the signal.  When crossing the road to or from the new station, you must remember to push your pedestrian button to get the signal indicating when you can cross safely.  Also, because this is new for everyone, it is important that pedestrians watch for traffic before stepping out to cross the road – there could be cars making left-hand and u-turns.  Whenever there are changes, it is important to be aware of all the users to the roadway to ensure your safety at all times.

    The new Viva stations reflect the CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) principles of transparency and good lighting, enabling people to see and be seen. We’ve paid careful attention to lighting levels, including along the platform and in the glass enclosure, which is fully visible to the platform and has doors at either end.

    Each platform is well equipped with electronic security devices, overseen 24/7 by YRT/Viva staff at transit headquarters.  Stations are monitored constantly by three CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) cameras.  In addition to providing good coverage of the platform at all times, transit staff can maneuver the cameras manually as needed.

    To add to passenger’s sense of security, a clearly marked Emergency Call Button (ECB) is located inside the glass enclosure, and its speaker provides immediate two-way contact between the caller and YRT operators.  The audio of the call is recorded and time-stamped, as is the video that is automatically captured by the closest camera when the button is pushed. When the ECB is pushed, blue strobe lights on the VMS and on the ECB will be triggered to indicate to passing emergency services that assistance is needed, and transit staff will dispatch emergency services if required.

    Also adding to these new features is the PA system that will be used to provide live and recorded public announcements from transit operations, which we talked about in a previous blog.

    These new features are probably things that most people will never need to think about.  All the same, knowing that we’ve gone to great lengths to maximize our passengers’ sense of safety, and that our transit staff are on duty 24/7 behind the cameras, should give all our riders total peace of mind.  Be safe!

    we can hear you, loud and clear

    August 15th, 2014

    Most PA systems are pretty frustrating in the garbled sound quality they provide. But at vivaNext the engineers have worked hard to design the optimal public address system for your new vivastations.    There’s nothing worse than knowing something important is being said, but not being able to understand it or hear it properly.

    To make sure the new PA system is always audible, we started with an acoustic analysis study using special “Enhanced Acoustic Simulator for Engineers” (EASE) software. This study analyzed the two elements most critical to sound: Sound Pressure Level (SPL) and Speech Transmission Index (STI). The SPL, measured in decibels (dB), is concerned with sound magnitude and takes into account ambient noise levels – it is the relative “loudness” of a sound.  STI predicts how the equipment being used and the surrounding environment will affect the quality of the sound, and therefore how intelligible it is for you as you hear it.

    First, the acoustic engineers needed to determine what effects our curved canopies and the beams and angles inside the station would have on the way sound is going to move around.  Secondly, the reflection of sound by the concrete wall, floor and glass was modeled. This analysis helped predict how clear the final sound will be on the platform and in the enclosure, and also helped determine the number and placement of speakers that will be most effective in achieving clear sounds.

    Following this sophisticated modeling the engineers determined that the optimal number of speakers to achieve these goals would be 12 speakers located outside of the passenger enclosure, and another 3 speakers inside.

    The next challenge was to work on the volume of the speakers.  The problem with PA systems in noisy places is that the ambient noise can overwhelm the volume of the PA system, making it impossible to hear what’s being said.  Our solution is to use a speaker volume system that automatically adjusts when its sensors detect that the ambient noise has increased or decreased.

    There are two sensors on each new Viva platform to measure noise level. This way, announcements should be audible whether there’s a bus idling in the station and trucks are moving past, or it’s nighttime and quiet. Volume control and environmental sensitivity helps determine the right sound levels without disturbing those who don’t need to hear the message.

    The PA system will be used for recorded and live announcements from transit operations, such as emergency information or service changes.  It will not announce bus arrivals at this time, although it does have that capability should we want to turn on that function.

    Although we’ve tested the system many times, we continue to monitor the sound levels, so let us know if you can truly hear us, loud and clear.

     

    ITS – balancing the needs of all travellers

    August 13th, 2014

    Gridlock is an increasing problem everywhere across the GTHA and most other large cities.  But what can be done about it?  VivaNext is one part of the solution.  With the new vivaNext system comes improved ITS – which isn’t what you think…

    Some people may think ITS is connected to “Information Technology”, but in the vivaNext world ITS stands for “Intelligent Transportation Systems”. ITS is an international transportation-engineering discipline that is trying to improve the efficiency of travel, whether it involves the travelling public, commercial vehicles, or transit.  The basic assumptions behind ITS are that delays cost money, and more efficient travel saves money. This new technology is an absolutely critical component of the vivaNext program, although with low-visibility.

    ITS is used to ensure that traffic corridors are designed as one coordinated system – the physical roadway’s design, lane markings and signs, traffic signal design and timing, and the brains that connect all these pieces.  In a transit project, ITS has an additional layer which is concerned with how the transit system is integrated into that larger system.

    As high-tech as each of these components are, none can be effective unless it can communicate with the others.  Each one also needs to be connected to the overall transit system which keeps track of the schedule for each bus, and which determines when the traffic signal phasing requires a temporary adjustment to let a delayed bus get back on schedule by holding a light.

    The connection is provided through a fibre optics communications network that links all of the intersection and every vivastation to YRT’s transit operations and York Region’s traffic operations.

    This system is fully automated, with approaching vehicles alerting intersections that they are arriving, and each intersection sharing that information with the central traffic control system, which in turn compares that information with the transit schedule.  The system is continuously adjusted and fine-tuned to ensure the buses stay on schedule, while keeping the roads and intersections working well for everyone.

    To enhance passenger safety, each station is equipped with cameras to monitor the platforms, a public address system to provide announcements and an emergency call box for personal safety.  All of these systems operate reliably and seamlessly over the new fibre optic communications system.

    The future Highway 7 will be significantly more urbanized, with more people living and working along the corridor.  That means there will be more transit riders, pedestrians and cyclists whose travel requirements need to be considered, in addition to car and truck traffic.  Helping transit vehicles stay on schedule is also a priority, since rapid transit can’t be rapid if it’s stuck in traffic.

    These ITS strategies help balance everyone’s needs, to get everyone there as fast as possible!  It truly is a balancing act!

     

    countdown to handover

    August 11th, 2014

    countdown to handover

    Taking advantage of every sunny day to advance the work on the Highway 7 rapidway in Markham, our teams are working hard to finish all sorts of little details. With much of the construction complete, we’re now focused on the final stages of construction and testing, and then getting ready for handover, when the system is officially turned over to York Region and YRT, the system owners and operators.

    Handover means just what it says – it’s the moment in time when the transit system is handed over to the owner for care and custody. From that time forward, the system – which until then has been the responsibility of the Contractor/Design Builder – becomes the private property of the owner.

    Because the formal handover is such a significant development, especially on a major infrastructure project like the vivaNext rapidway, it’s important to ensure everything is in perfect working order. The various steps involved in commissioning, which is the testing period that takes place before handover, vary depending on what is being handed over. For example, with the fare equipment, we make sure the ticket vending machine [TVM] prints properly. With the traffic signals, once they’re programmed the permanent signals are turned on and each phase is tested individually, and all the push buttons are tested to make sure they work.

    Streetlights are inspected to ensure all the wiring is according to the drawings; that the bases are level, and the power connections are all correct. The teams go out at night to actually turn on the lights, to ensure all the lamps come on and nothing is flickering. Lighting is an important safety feature for both pedestrians and vehicles.

    Every single detail is inspected through a visual walk-down. Then a list of the things that still need to be finished or perfected is created with items graded from most serious to least serious. These items will be fixed either prior to the system opening or post opening under the warranty.

    Once handover takes place, legal ownership and responsibility is transferred to the owner, and the Contractor/Design Builder’s warranty period begins, just the way it happens when a homebuyer takes possession of a new house.

    Handover in this case means some elements of the rapidway, like the rapidway, stations, boulevards and planters, are transferred to the Region. Others, like the sidewalks and streetlights are transferred to the local municipality to maintain.

    Ultimately, vivaNext wants to provide a reliable, efficient rapid transit system and beautiful streetscape. Because, at the end of the day, the ultimate owners are the public of York Region and with every new piece of rapidway delivered, it makes it a better system that we all can be proud of.

    testing, testing, testing

    August 8th, 2014

    testing, testing, testing

    As you will know from driving along Highway 7 East from Highway 404 to Warden, our rapidway construction is really coming along, and this summer another segment will be going into operation. We still have a bit more work ahead of us before service operation can begin, including some work which will be obvious, such as final paving, striping and landscaping. But in addition to that, we’re just getting underway on a less-obvious but highly important part of the job, which is testing – to ensure that all parts of the rapidway project are ready for active service.

    This stage – known in the construction world as commissioning – is critically important and planning for commissioning the new section of Highway 7 East rapidway has already been in progress.

    So what does commissioning involve, and how do we do it?

    First of all, the technical definition of commissioning is: the process of assuring that all systems and components of a system are designed, installed and tested according to the operational requirements that have been established.

    In the case of vivaNext, the most visible components of the project include the new roadways, passenger stations and amenities, and streetscape elements such as lighting, sidewalks and landscaping. Ongoing inspections are being done as construction progresses to ensure that these are being built to certain specifications, before they are handed over for use by Viva. Commissioning is a detailed focus on the key systems and components that together make up the overall network.

    These components include the fare collection equipment; the station information systems such as the variable message signs, clocks and Public Address systems; passenger security elements such as closed circuit TV systems and emergency call buttons; and the traffic signals at intersections. It also includes the sophisticated Transit Vehicle Detection system, which will provide information to the traffic signals when rapid transit vehicles are approaching intersections, as well as the overall communications system and fibre optic network that links all of these components.

    Testing starts at the factory, where the fabricator verifies that the equipment works as it was intended to, and then each component is tested again once it’s installed. Once all the components are installed and each one is confirmed to be working as designed, a series of additional tests are carried out to confirm that the entire system is integrated properly and working together. Don’t forget we have to connect up to the section already open and make sure everything continues to run smoothly.

    The final step involves testing the reliability and function of the extended system, including simulating actual operation using buses and staff acting as passengers. This gives the people who will be involved in the future operation, maintenance and service of the rapidway an opportunity to become familiar with the new section.

    So you can see that there’s still a lot of work behind the scenes to get to the day we’re all looking forward to – when the Viva bus extends its journey the length of the new rapidway from Bayview Avenue to South Town Centre Boulevard in late August.

    turning on the lights

    August 6th, 2014

    turning on the lights

    Street lights are one of those infrastructure elements that the public may not give a lot of thought to, but in truth their design contributes significantly to the overall streetscape. And because the vivaNext project is being used to transform Highway 7 East from a highway to an urban corridor, all the design components, including the street lights, have been given a lot of thought. But before design considerations can be focused on, safety is the first priority to be achieved with street lighting. VivaNext works with York Region, the local Municipality and the utility companies to develop lighting designs, coordinate and install the lights. Here’s an overview of the role lighting plays in the vivaNext vision, and the street lighting elements you will see installed on all the rapidway corridors.

    Designing street lighting, like all the major elements in the vivaNext project, focuses on achieving a combination of practical and design objectives. Lighting is first and foremost a public safety consideration. There are strict national and local standards on how street lighting is designed, including how much lighting is required for different conditions. For example, different measures are used to determine the lighting levels for roadways compared to intersections and sidewalks. Once the levels are known, lighting designers develop a design, which includes variables such as pole height, spacing and “lux,” which is the amount of light to be provided by the fixture.

    Once the lighting design is done, streetscape design objectives can come into play in order to marry the technical requirements with the architectural priorities needed to achieve the desired streetscape “look.” In the case of vivaNext, the streetscape objectives are for a modern, stylish and uncluttered look that will contribute to the corridors feeling like urban destinations, and make them distinctive from other Regional roadways.

    To achieve all these safety requirements and design objectives, we have selected a special street light pole and luminaire [the light head or fixture], and arm that holds the luminaire, to be used along the Highway 7 rapidway segments. The poles will be a little higher than the ones they’ve replaced [9.9 metres high versus 8.0 metres], and they’re made of metal with a dark grey powder-coat finish for long-wear and less maintenance. Unlike most poles which are octagonal shaped and tapered to the top, these are round and cylindrical for a sleeker, more modern look. And the lighting head or luminaire on top was chosen to complement the sleek, modern look of our canopies.

    The street lights also have a photo sensor to automatically turn on and off when it’s dark. And the bulbs – which are little larger than the light bulbs you have in your home – only need to be replaced every 4 years.

    So next time you’re sitting at a stop light or at a bus stop and you’re looking at the beautiful new streetscape, you’ll know more about all the decisions that were needed to turn on the lights! Enjoy!!